Desert Bound by Marshall Bradford
Desert Bound | Marshall Bradford | 02.05.15 to 03.22.15
Alternately alluring, shocking, deeply suggestive and subversive, Bradford’s work has a magnetic power, his masterly admixture of haute couture photography and sexuality is the thrill of the illicit paired with an admiration and hunger for so much splendor. This engendersan irrepressible desire to see more, provoking an admiration and hunger for so many splendors. The show includes twenty photographs in black and white as well as in color, and offer a unique view into the artistic oeuvre of this esteemed erotic photographer.
The works are all brilliantly composed and have a cinematic quality. Many of the images are connected to archetype of the vamp, the femme fatal so often seen in fashion, film, theater and art. While an undisputed sexiness is present in all the works, Bradford’s mastery over his medium is the cornerstone of his work. In works like Ecstasy at Mojave Lake, taken outdoors, Bradford combines the thoughtful and clean use of light, magnification, focus, reflection of texture, and a sensual game of veiling, and exposure, creating a series of works that have at their core, a sense of theatric. Bondage is a prevalent theme, as explicitly expressed in the color photograph Tied and Written, a tattooed woman in bondage is transformed into the ornate beauty of knotting across the body of a calligraphic back. The Shibari Series depict the ornate and intricate Japanese art of bondage Kinbaku such as Shibari Beauty, an expression of sublime pleasure, domination and submission. These decadent andmasterfully staged photographs belong to the narrative pictorial language of cinema, the contrast of skin, rope, cloth, and light making for an orchestrated mise-en-scène.
Bradford’s stunning photos are part of the colliding worlds of fashion and sexuality, and as such are part of the tradition of the great fashion photographer Helmut Newton, in the sense that Bradford builds on Newton’s precepts for a new vision and constructs stylish, posed and iconic pictures of bondage, sexual subjection and fantasy. As well, Bradford is fully engaged with the provocative image of a beautiful woman, her accessories and props highlighting her sexuality, her power, or the power of the voyeur over her, something Newton was unabashed about, this pleasure of looking, this need for beauty, and sexual experience. Bradford’s black and white work Sex and the Maiden, is a supple photo of a nude, classical illuminated, her arched body resembling the tradition of a figurehead or wooden lady at the stern of a boat. The pattern of the ropes are like ornate carving, and scrollwork, and function as a fetishistic form of clothing. These are exquisitely constructed spectacles, at times purely about lust, and at other times, more complex and fetishistic. For example in many works, there is an intrusion of the strange. For example, the picture Beautiful Monster I (from the Genki Series) showa voluptuously lovely nude with a squid, in her mouth, a portrait of submission. In Beautiful Monster II, the creature is worn as a boa, anoutlandish marriage of aquatic monsters, food, and sensuality provokes questions about taste, fetish and power.
Armor ruminates on gender and desire, a man’s muscular torso cloaked in armor like tattooing and scars. In other photos, the model is anonymous, and at times androgynous, the body inscribed as a canvas, parts not fully decipherable, but nonetheless compelling.
More than a collection of images from a sexual subculture, Bradford’s work meets at intersection of erotica, burlesque and performance art and as such is multifaceted, masterly and unerring beautiful. The artist’s ability to engage in contemporary leitmotifs, and transform his images of sex into distinctive portrayals of explosive beauty makes his work stand apart.
An exclusive opportunity to view this body of stunning work, the exhibit will be on view from February 2 to March 22, 2015. Instructional Shibari and How To Work With Models workshops will be open to public throughout the exhibition.